For the third successive year teams comprising the musicians of Brisbane (the Rocking Horses) and the local community radio and music press (the Brisbane Lines) are facing off in the Brisbane Reclink Community Cup, an all-inclusive AFL game raising money for the Reclink Australia charity. The Music caught up with members of the respective leadership groups to find out about this strange altruistic meeting of art and sport.
For over two decades now in Melbourne, the Reclink Community Cup has been an much-loved part of the annual sporting calendar, raising much-needed money for underprivileged Australians in the process. In recent years, the concept has expanded nationally and in 2016 arrived in Brisbane, pitting newly-established AFL franchises the Rocking Horses (a team comprising local musicians from all reaches of Brisbane’s fertile scene) and the Brisbane Lines (made up of 4ZZZ stalwarts and other associated music press figures) against each other in a mixed-gender match for the ages.
Sadly in the intervening years, the threatened rivalry between the two teams has become more farce than fierce, the players all training together and getting along so famously that it’s often difficult to remember who plays for which team.
Of course that comradeship goes out the window when it comes to the big day, and with the ledger currently squared at 1-1 there’s a lot on the line when the third annual clash takes place this Sunday afternoon at Hickey Park in Stafford.
Obviously the focus is on raising funds for Reclink Australia — who provide sport and art programs to disadvantaged Australians — but there’s a lot of sporting pride at stake as well.
But mainly it’s about having fun, in all of its various guises. On the day you can catch some top-notch local bands — this year including Mad Macka (Cosmic Psychos, The Onyas), Marville, Requin and DJ Sad Dad — as well as a surplus of bars and activities for the kids, with practically something for everybody.
Jack Law from local rockers House Hounds missed the first Brisbane Community Cup with a knee injury, but has distinguished himself enough in games and at training since to be named the Rocking Horses’ co-captain for 2018.
“I just love how inclusive everyone is, and how both teams train together leading to a real sense of togetherness,” he smiles. “And then of course on the day it’s so much more than just a game, there’s the bands playing and the food there, everyone’s just coming along to have a good time and not taking it too seriously. Having said that we’ve been training hard to put a good show on.”
Law’s Brisbane Lines counterpart, Cam Smith, could initially have played on either side — he plays in numerous bands (Tape/Off, Terra Pines and Ghost Notes to name a few) plus has a long affiliation with 4ZZZ — so how did he come to be a foundation member of the Brisbane Lines?
“Zeds asked first,” he laughs. “That was the first I’d heard about [the Community Cup] being in Brisbane — I knew it was an institution down in Melbourne and had been growing — and when the ZZZ station manager asked me to play my first thought was, ‘No way, I haven’t played in 18 years!’ but they convinced me to come down. The first training was a shocker but then it got better.
“It’s such a good time with the whole community aspect. Everyone comes down and practices once or twice a week for three months leading up to the game and I’ve met so many great people through it, and some of us now play social football together when we’re not playing Community Cup. There’s a real spirit of camaraderie even between the teams even though we’re rivals: everyone looks out for each other for the most part. Then of course the big day comes and it’s games faces on, frowns all around.”
Rocking Horses co-captain Jodie Lawlor — who fronts local punk icons Flangipanis — is another who missed the first Community Cup game through injury (a match-eve self-inflicted dancing mishap no less), but who finally got to partake last year after two grueling seasons of training.
“I was so excited!” she recalls. “I’ve been watching AFL for years and always wanted to play but never had the chance, I had such an awesome time and play footy during the week too now, which is fun.
“I really enjoy playing footy now. It’s not boring — I get bored easily — and something’s always happening, and it’s kinda painful which is really fun as well. It’s hard but it’s rewarding.”
Brisbane Lines co-captain James Brooks — who can be heard on Rebel FM on Saturday nights — is another who’s embraced the social aspect of the Community Cup without losing sight of the bigger picture.
“If nothing else I now have 30 or 40 new friends, people to have a laugh and a kick with and someone to talk footy with, which is great for my long-suffering wife,” he laughs. “And in a way this is what Reclink does every day — putting people in groups with like-minded people in a fun environment and giving them something to do which is not destructive or anything. It’s a great way to get to know people, have a bit of fun and do a bit of exercise — just have a laugh.”
Rocking Horse vice-captain Simon Graydon — another who’s played in countless bands including Sekiden and Undead Apes — is another who appreciates the event’s social import.
“It’s a really fun way to enjoy some exercise, which is something not a lot of us traditionally love in the arts,” he smiles. “I’m a pretty socially awkward person but I find that sport helps you get out of your shell and communicate with other people, and the whole point of Community Cup is outreach and inclusiveness, so it’s a great excuse to meet people. The day itself is pretty much just a party — I genuinely don’t even mind the result in the end, it’s such a fun time.”
Is he surprised there’s such a strong camaraderie between musicians and the radio/press in the lead-up?
“I believe it’s a symbiotic relationship,” Graydon chuckles. “I don’t think you guys would have a lot to broadcast or write about without musicians, and we as musos need all the promo we can get, so it’s like a snake eating its own tail. Some of the banter out there is cracking!”
Rocking Horses vice-captain and local alt-pop artist Erin Fitzsimon (aka Inigo) was emboldened by her Community Cup experience to drop any prior pretense about “being a secret Sporty Spice”.
“I’d never played Aussie Rules before — I’d played sport my whole life but it’s like ‘the secret life of a musician’, you just pretend you don’t play sport because usually sport is uncool to musicians and music is uncool to sports people,” she recalls with a smile. “So I’ve been leading a double life.
“I love that everyone is so damn sportsmanlike and encouraging and enthusiastic and there’s no bad feelings between the teams, everyone is just jumping in and playing the game together which is so uncommon in most sports.”
And Brisbane Lines vice-captain (and 4ZZZ announcer/stalwart) Olivia Shoesmith is another who’d never played Aussie Rules before last year’s Community Cup and has relished the experience.
“I was a last-minute ring in and was immediately converted from my first training,” she marvels. “It’s just so fun to get out with your mates and do stuff that you wouldn’t usually do. I sometimes don’t like doing exercise so it’s been really good to do something as a team and have people encourage you to keep it up — the team environment is really fun.
“[The actual game last year] involved a lot of running and I definitely struggled with the stairs afterwards, but it was really great. It was something I never thought I’d do, so to actually get out there amongst it was really an enlightening experience.”
And why does Shoesmith think people should attend the big rematch this Sunday?
“You can barrack for your team — which should be the Brisbane Lines — knock back some tinnies and relax and watch some organised sport between people who don’t usually play sport,” she grins. “So it’ll be a bit of a laugh as well as getting those competitive juices flowing.”
Unsurprisingly given the two teams’ apparent groupthink, Lawlor agrees that people should vote with their feet to support this wonderful initiative.
“It’s like a little festival and you don’t even have to watch the footy if you don’t want,” she laughs. “It’s like all the excitement of Grand Final day without bothering with the season, which is awesome. Even people who don’t even really watch or like sport come and get involved, which is the whole essence of Reclink – getting involved in a community event and feel a part of something – and you can sort of see that flow through.”
The 2018 Brisbane Reclink Community Cup takes place on Sunday 29 July at Bendigo Bank Oval at Hickey Park, Stafford (gates at 11am, kick off 1pm).